Avon and the U.N. Development Fund for Women on Tuesday announced a new partnership in an effort to end violence against women and to promote women’s empowerment at the United Nations.

Additionally, the beauty giant expects to announce a collaboration with fashion house Emanuel Ungaro for fragrance. On top of that, Avon plans to name Reese Witherspoon, who spoke at the U.N. event, spokeswoman for the Ungaro project, appearing in worldwide print and TV advertising.

The Ungaro alliance is part of Avon’s ongoing strategy to partner with designers to create signature fragrances and follows signature fragrance projects Avon has launched in conjunction with Christian Lacroix and Cynthia Rowley.

At the U.N. event, which was called the Global Summit for a Better Tomorrow and held in advance of International Women’s Day on Saturday, Avon pledged through its new Avon Empowerment Fund $1 million to the UNIFEM U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women.

Andrea Jung, Avon’s chairman and chief executive officer, contended this will be the largest corporate grant ever made to the U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women within a one-year period.

“Our mission is to help improve the lives of women and bring about change,” Jung said in remarks during the event. “We’re taking action from issues we spotted last year,” she added, citing a survey of 8,500 women from 16 countries on whether women are satisfied with education, employment, economic independence, personal safety, health and political participation.

“[We are] helping women with access and resources to better fulfill their lives,” said Jung. “When we empower women, we improve the conditions of not only our own lives but also our families’ and society.”

Alexis Glick, a Fox Business Network anchor and vice president of Business News at the network, moderated a panel of guest speakers, including Witherspoon, who is Avon’s global ambassador, personal finance expert Suze Orman and Joanne Sandler, UNIFEM’s executive director.

Witherspoon unveiled the company’s first global fund-raising item, a $3 women’s empowerment bracelet, sold by sales representatives at avon.com. It is through the bracelet sales that Avon plans to raise the $1 million.

Said Witherspoon, “I’ve seen how Avon has first-hand opened the doors for women to be entrepreneurial, with a commitment for women to be able to go far and beyond basic products. From supporting causes like domestic violence and breast cancer, Avon is working to change the quality of women’s lives.”

This story first appeared in the March 5, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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According to Jung, 600 million women worldwide still live on $1 dollar a day or less and two-thirds of women live in poverty. She added that one in three women are victims of domestic and sexual violence. In the U.S. alone, half of women lost their jobs as a result of abuse, said Jung.

In addition to the Avon-U.N. initiative, a global forum sponsored by the U.S. State Department is to take place in Washington on March 12. The agenda calls for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Jung to speak to female judges from around the world, and the event aims to focus on giving women better access to justice.

— Michelle Edgar

French Beauty Sales Grow

PARIS — France’s selective beauty channel showed a return to unit growth last year, according to The NPD Group.

Approximately 73 million products were sold in French perfumeries and department stores in 2007, representing a 2.4 percent increase year-on-year. By comparison, in 2006 on 2005, unit sales were flat.

In value terms, sales in 2007 rose 4.5 percent to 2.9 billion euros, or $3.98 billion at average exchange. (That came in a retail context where in-store selective beauty prices overall increased 2 percent to an average unit price of 39.55 euros, or $54.21.) France’s selective beauty channel generated 51 percent of the country’s overall cosmetics business last year.

“Despite economic turbulence and low consumer morale, the selective market managed to resist in 2007, thanks to points-of-sale operations and media investments by brands,” stated Martine Ringwald, vice president of NPD BeautyTrends Europe, who added retailers also benefited from the expiration at the end of 2006 of a French law banning them from TV advertising.

In spite of disappointing overall December 2007 sales, which rose 1.1 percent versus the same month in 2006, fragrance revenues gave a strong showing last year, rising 5 percent to 1.8 billion euros, or $2.47 billion. Some 39 million scents were sold, 3.6 percent more than in 2006.

Skin care revenues grew 3 percent to 652 million euros, or $894 million. Around 18 million units were sold, a flat comparative-year showing. Antiage treatments with price tags higher than 150 euros, or $206, represented one in every six products sold in that category, according to NPD.

Makeup revenues, meantime, increased 4.8 percent to 389 million euros, or $533 million. Within that segment, eye products, led by mascaras, posted sales growth of 7.8 percent; foundation and powder sales together grew 5.1 percent, while the lip color business rose 1.2 percent. The 16 million color-cosmetics units purchased in 2007 translated into a 1.9 percent on-year increase.

Across all channels of beauty distribution and in every beauty category, France’s cosmetics sales gained 3.5 percent to 5.6 billion euros, or $7.68 billion, according to combined data from IMS Health, Information Resources Inc. and The NPD Group.

Sales in the country’s mass market grew 2.4 percent and contributed to 28.1 percent of France’s overall beauty business. In pharmacies, they rose 2 percent and captured 15.8 percent of the market, while parapharmacy revenues increased 3.2 percent to contribute 5.1 percent of the country’s total sales.

— Ellen Groves